“It’s ironic,” begins Carl Canedy amid a conversation about his impending first solo album. “I’ve produced at least 35 albums, and I’ve always been active in the arranging and pre-production and all that stuff, and I’ve been a songwriter from early on. All that time, I’ve never thought about doing a solo album, and I don’t know why.”
For Canedy, the iconic drummer of metal underground favorites The Rods and producer of notable, landmark early albums for bands like Overkill and Anthrax (it was, in fact, Canedy who brought Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna to the attention of Megaforce Records chief Jon Zazula, cementing a cornerstone in the birth of thrash itself), this solo album is a total labor of love – and he’s reaching out to fans and longtime supporters with a Kickstarter campaign to get the album off the ground.
“I’m in the finishing stages right now,” Canedy says, “and I’m hoping for a July release.”
In turn for contributions to get this album in the hands of listeners, Canedy is offering a host of benefits to those who wish to help him fully realize his vision, ranging from a thank-you in the album’s liner notes at the lower end, to an executive producer credit and Skype greeting at the highest tier, with plenty of goodies in between.
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “This last bit of financing is the last hurdle.”
The impetus of Canedy’s musical venture into the great solitary unknown was spurred by a desire to actually “own” the music, an opportunity that many musicians don’t get due to record label contracts that inhibit artist ownership of the publishing rights or unscrupulous management loopholes.
“There were a couple of songs that I wanted to remake that The Rods had recorded,” Canedy explains. “I wanted to redo those, and there were new songs that I had written that weren’t really Rods-type songs. I wanted to have written all the songs, musically and lyrically; I wanted everything to be 100 percent mine. That was some of the criteria I used.”
Stylistically, the material will certainly be in the vein of what longtime fans have come to expect from Canedy’s work in The Rods, with perhaps an extra metal shard thrown in for good measure.
“There are some songs that are really heavy, like Black Sabbath heavy,” Canedy admits. I’m anxious to see what people will think of where I went with this, but there are some songs that are heavier than The Rods for sure.”
Not surprisingly, with Canedy’s three-decade reputation among homegrown New York/New Jersey-area metal musicians (Canedy’s a New York native, and a current Carbondale-area resident, actually dividing his time between a real estate career and playing with local veterans The Jeffrey James Band), he’s secured some famous friends to lend their talents to his solo debut.
“John Hahn from (Sunbury, Pa. natives) Harpo is on guitar, and Chris Caffery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) does some amazing solos,” Canedy says. “I’ve got Joe Comeau (Overkill/Annihilator) and Mark Tornillo (Accept) singing. John, particularly, helped me immensely in that he took all the guitar riffs and things that I’d played to places where I couldn’t have taken them.” The album also features contributions from Canedy’s Rods bandmate Garry Bordonaro on bass.
Don’t let the big names throw you, however, as this album will be all Canedy’s design. Somewhat of a rarity for a drummer, Canedy’s been in the driver’s seat for much of his career – by default, as he’ll tell you.
“When I started out, my girlfriend at Elmira College had two mono tape recorders; I was writing these horrible songs,” he laughs. “I would bang out a guitar part, then put a solo or a vocal live, playing it to what I had previously recorded, building it up. I’d bounce it back and forth until I had this horrible song with hiss in it. But I was always into production, into the tech end.”
Canedy reflects upon his love of production, along with a love of engineering, but not doing both at the same time. He remembers The Rods being a young band going into the studio for the first time, not being able to afford a producer. It was then when he’d begin to develop his aptitude as the guiding hand behind the tunes.
“I’d always had these arranging ideas, so I’d always jump in on certain things,” Canedy says. “Being a guitarist as well, and being a fan of guitar and vocalists as well, I’d always listen to phrasing. When it came time to do guitar solos or anyone working on vocals and there was no producer, I’d suggest doing it a certain way or coming up with an alternate idea. That’s how I got into being a producer.”
Canedy relates a great story about the recording of the first Rods album (1980’s “Rock Hard”) where his multifarious skills got pulled into service and were able to rescue the band from a tough spot.
“A lot of times David (‘Rock’ Feinstein, Rods guitarist/vocalist) and I were the only ones in the studio,” Canedy says. “There was a song called ‘Woman’ that I wrote when we ran out of studio time. I went out and played the drums at the last minute and taught David the song after the session, and the next time we came in, he put the guitar part on. I just played it with no click track because I had written it and knew it in my head. It’s all grown from that, really – not having the money for a producer.”
It’s that work ethic which would spread Canedy’s name around as a trusted voice behind the boards, initially instrumental in heavy metal band Manowar’s early days. He played drums on and produced the band’s first EP, moving on to Anthrax (“Fistful of Metal,” “Armed and Dangerous,” “Spreading the Disease”), Overkill (“Feel the Fire”), Exciter (“Violence and Force”), and even local NEPA metal band Graphic Violence’s 1997 self-titled album. Canedy remembers the formative days on Manowar, for instance.
“I knew that when I was working with Ross (The Boss, guitarist) and Joey (DeMaio, bassist) and Eric (Adams, vocals), we were in those rehearsals, and I still have the recordings that I made myself of those rehearsals, I knew there was greatness,” he says. “You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that those guys were going to be huge. That was a no-brainer for me to work with them, and it came at a time when The Rods were getting signed to Arista, and Manowar auditioned and then signed with EMI. It was a crossroads for me, and I made the choice to stay with The Rods, but it was clear to me that what we were doing with Manowar was great. My choice was that of a songwriter, and I knew I wouldn’t have that outlet with Manowar.”
Canedy has similar thoughts on his first impressions of Anthrax.
“People laughed at me when I said they were going to be huge,” he says. “My friends called it insect music; this was at a time when Anthrax was not mainstream music. Even with Scott (Ian, Anthrax guitarist) putting the “NOT” logo on his guitar and things like that, they were so into what they were doing. They were into rap, they were into crossover and that whole New York City scene from day one, so I wasn’t surprised when they put out “I’m the Man;” they were ahead of the curve. They were a tough group; they were focused and knew what it took to get to the next level, like when I suggested a singer named Matt Fallon after Neil Turbin left.”
Fallon, who actually went on to become the predecessor of Sebastian Bach in Skid Row, was not working out as Anthrax’s vocalist, a fact that was apparent to Canedy.
“I told them, ‘This guy will not take you to a major label.’ So, we put out the word, and I was able to find Joey Belladonna.”
That tenacious spirit, and devotion to the then-budding East Coast metal scene, resulted in a fair amount of camaraderie with the bands The Rods shared stages with over the years.
“We were all in this because we loved it,” he says of working with future legends. We were all coming into it like the underdogs. For example, one time we played L’Amours in Brooklyn and Metallica was on the bill. Lars didn’t have bass drum pedals, and it was like, ‘Sure, you can use mine.’ Nobody had the big attitudes; we were all struggling along in the same way.”
Carl Canedy knows that he’s gotten a fair amount of recognition as a drummer, and as a producer as well over the course of a long career rooted in the decidedly East Coast brand of hard rock and metal that’s since gone on the influence millions throughout the world, but as far as being a songwriter is concerned, maybe not so much. He’s looking to change that with this album.
“When I started the project, the idea was to have these little 30-second percussive bits that would lead into some the songs; they were little drum bits,” Canedy recalls. “As I went through some of the songs on this album, playing the drum tracks, I realized that the focus is really on the songs. Ultimately, with this album, I really wanted to serve the song. It’s about the music for me; it’s about the songs. It’s a group of songs that I’ve written, and I’m really proud of these songs – it’s more about that than it is my production or my drumming.
“Really, at the end of the day, it’s about the music, whether you like it or not. How many times are you going to listen to a song because the drumming is cool?”